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Magazine » March April 2012 Issue » President's Report March-April

President's Report March-April

Lydia T. Scardina, President, USA Dance
Date Published:
March 1, 2012

The value of Olympism for DanceSport

I am frequently asked by our members what benefit there is to them of affiliation with the Olympic movement, given that DanceSport is not yet in the Olympic Games and may never be in the Olympic Games. Here is my response:

The Olympic movement is much more than just the Summer and Winter Games that millions of people around the world watch on TV every four years. It is a world-wide movement to elevate and celebrate sport and the manner in which it is played. It seeks to allow athletes across all sports to be able to perform at their best on a level playing field under a set of rules for each sport that are made to be as fair as possible for all athletes.

This is not easy to do, and controversies arise regularly, because countries, sport associations, athletes and the rules under which they compete are not perfect. But the goal is always to adhere to the principle of fair play for all.

The Olympics also allow athletes to compete on the biggest stage of all, bringing recognition for their efforts and pride to each participating nation and its citizens. But how has this made DanceSport better?

Here's how:

Since the World DanceSport Federation was accepted in the 1990's by the International Olympic Committee as the World Governing Body for DanceSport, many changes for the better have occurred. The WDSF, working in conjunction with its 90 member federations, has made anti-doping regulations and random athlete drug testing a requirement for all major competitions, adhering to world-wide anti-doping standards as required by the IOC. This assures competitors that the sport is clean of performance enhancing drugs and that no athlete gets an edge via use of such substances.

The IOC and national Olympic committees mandate that the bylaws of individual National Governing Bodies afford protections and a hearing process for all athletes. Athletes are voting members in the affairs of their NGB and must have at least 20% representation on committees and councils that deal with athlete issues. In the United States, we made a full- scale revision to the bylaws of our organization in order to comply with the federal Amateur Sports Act and all Olympic requirements before the USOC granted recognition to USA Dance as the NGB for DanceSport.

Strides have been made to develop world-wide costume requirements and restrictions, so that competitor costumes are within accepted standards of safety and good taste, and costumes and make-up for young children remain appropriate to their age.

Adjudication standards have also risen in compliance with IOC requirements, with all judges affiliated with the WDSF having to keep their credentials current by attending regular congresses where they are brought up to date on any recent changes to the internationally-accepted adjudication system. Judges must also now adhere to a more stringent code of ethics than in the past.

And the format of world competitions has also changed. In WDSF world championships, all finalists must now dance several solo dances as well as the group rounds for which DanceSport is well known. This is beneficial not only for judges who get to concentrate on each couple throughout an entire dance, but also for spectators who get to better see and understand the differences in style and technique which different couples may exhibit.

Also being tested at this time are additional changes to the judging system, where couples are required to perform certain figures in each dance, so that judges may more easily evaluate their level of execution in performing the same figures. As this system is perfected, there is every likelihood that it will become a standard element of judging DanceSport competitions around the world.

I also often hear that competitive ballroom dancing is an artistic endeavor, not a sport, and should no more be in the Olympics than other artistic endeavors. But the fact remains that artistic sports such as gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming and figure skating have been in the Olympic Games for years and have a devoted following of fans who bring in considerable revenue at the box office and many millions of TV viewers. If these artistic sports are able to participate within the athletic family, why not DanceSport, where physical acumen and endurance as well as artistry and grace are clearly evident on the competitive dance floor?

USA Dance has been a member of the United States Olympic Committee since the late 1990's, recognized by the USOC as the National Governing Body for DanceSport. We presently serve on the Multi Sport Organization Council of the USOC, and I have received the honor of recently being named chair of the MSOC's committee tasked with increasing the collaboration between the MSOC and other elements within the Olympic and Paralympic family. This will mean forging closer relationships for USA Dance with Olympians, Paralympians and other National Governing Bodies.

We will soon be asking interested chapters to help celebrate Olympic Day this coming June, by honoring athletes and the role that healthy physical activity plays in all our lives.

Even if DanceSport never succeeds in becoming an Olympic program sport, it is already participating in other Games that form part of the Olympic family of competitions, including the Asian Games and the World Games. USA Dance has sent athletes every four years to the World Games, where DanceSport is among the most popular of sports and is only one of a few to be filmed for a world-wide audience.

As I have reported earlier, the next step toward becoming an Olympic program sport is for DanceSport to be included in the Pan American Games. Strides continue to be made as more Latin American countries establish national DanceSport federations that in turn win acceptance by the WDSF and each country's national Olympic committee. The future is bright for this next step on the Olympic ladder.

So, even if the inclusion of DanceSport in the Olympic Games is far in the future, every year DanceSport becomes a better adjudicated, more fair and understandable competitive endeavor as a result of its affiliation with the Olympic movement, and this in turn brings increased recognition and growing respect for our beautiful artistic sport.

Lydia T. Scardina